Blackridge responds to municipal election scandal, threatens legal action
Following five days of silence since the Blackridge Strategy scandal broke, the public relations firm finally released a statement Tuesday.
"The media has willfully misrepresented the content of these websites as being slanderous and non-factual when the information presented on each website reflected verified, albeit harsh, facts," the statement reads.
Last week, website registration documents released under court order, showed the websites maureencassidy.ca and viriginaridley.ca were registered under Blackridge owner Amir Farahi’s name and paid for with a credit card in the same name.
The name Ronald Young also appears on the registration documents. Blackridge co-owner and school board trustee Jake Skinner's name did not appear in the documents.
On one website Ridley is harshly criticized, including accusations of "child abuse" for bringing her son to a committee meeting at city hall. The other website targeted Cassidy for her extra-marital affair with then-mayor Matt Brown.
In a 2018 interview with CT V News, Farahi said he was being framed, and denied any connection to the campaign websites.
In a then-unaired portion of the interview, he goes on to say, "These people who are trying to defame me and trying to put out these baseless allegations against me are doing so in a manner so that they don't get caught. That's my biggest frustration with this, these people are trying to do some of the nastiest things I've ever seen in an election."
Susan Toth, the lawyer for Ridley and Cassidy says, "Why deny it last year? If it is all fair game, why not put your name to it at that time? What's the issue?"
Now the firm is defending the truthfulness of the content of the websites, while still not directly admitting to responsibilty for their creation.
Blackridge's statement continued, "The entirety of the content presented on each website was factual...While these websites may have resulted in hurt feelings, the information presented on each page accurately reflected choices Councillors Cassidy and Ridley made as elected officials."
In a separate backround document, Blackridge admits to contractual obligations candidates running against Cassidy and Ridley in the 2018 municipal campaign.
"Blackridge Strategy entered into binding, contractual campaign service agreements with Ward 5 Candidate Randy Warden and Ward 10 Candidate (now City Councillor) Paul van Meerbergen during the 2018 municipal election."
When CTV News asked about negative campaigning last week, Van Meerbergen said, “I did not hear of any of that. We were very clear in what we wanted and what was delivered, which was Facebook and our campaign ad.”
The PR firm also says in the release that it will be "taking swift legal action to seek reputational damages against any and all individuals and organizations that have slandered our names and/or Blackridge Strategy."
Toth says so far, she has not received anything from Blackridge Strategy, "They are saying on the one piece that this is about hurt feelings, but they are coming out aggressively saying they are going to pursue legal actions presumably because they feel hurt, it's an interesting irony there."